Cash back rewards scarce for business owner with bad credit

Your Business Credit columnist Elaine Pofeldt
Elaine Pofeldt is a journalist whose articles on entrepreneurship and careers have appeared in Fortune, Working Mother, Money and many other publications. She is a former senior editor at Fortune Small Business magazine and an entrepreneur herself, as co-founder of, a website for independent professionals. She writes "Your Business Credit," a weekly column about small business and credit, for

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Question Dear Your Business Credit,
I have very poor personal credit. I had a mess when the housing market crashed, but I have a great business. I want a card where I can earn cash back. Business expenses are usually $10,000 per month or more. Right now I am using a checking account credit/debit card. I can put a lump sum in a secured account, but I want to earn cash back. Any cards available for me? -- Carol

Answer Dear Carol,
Congrats on bouncing back after the housing market crash.

You didn't share exactly what your credit score is so I'm going to assume you are correct that it is very poor. There are some cash back cards that are available to those with fair credit, but I could not find any for those with poor credit.

To nudge your credit score to the range card issuers consider fair, it may make sense for you to use a secured card for the next six months or so, so you can build a track record of paying off your card on time and then transition to a standard credit card. I could not find any secured cards for people with poor credit that offer cash back, except for a gas card. The Credit One Bank Credit Card with Gas Rewards offers unlimited 1 percent cash back gas rewards.

If you wait to apply until you can achieve fair credit, there are several cash-back cards that may work for you. Many entrepreneurs like to get a small-business card where the rewards and cash back are tailored to their needs. The only small-business card I could find that offers cash back to those with fair credit is the Capital One Spark Classic for Business. It offers 1 percent cash back on every purchase.

There are also some personal cards that are available to people with fair credit.

  • The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card offers 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase and has a $39 annual fee.
  • The NFL Extra Points Credit Card (no annual fee), aimed at consumers with fair to excellent credit, lets you earn 10,000 bonus points after you make $500 in purchases in the first 90 days, which you can redeem for a $100 statement credit. You'll earn 2 points for every dollar you spend on NFL or team purchases and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.
  • The Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard (no annual fee) gives you 2 points per $1 spent on gas, grocery and utility purchases; 1 point per dollar everywhere else.

There are a few other cards that offer cash back to those with fair credit but they are for students.

If you use a personal card, I would suggest you use it strictly for business. Keeping your business purchases separate from your personal ones will make doing your taxes easier.

Since you have had problems in the past with debt, I'd also suggest you devote some time to learning more about cash-flow management in your business. Money may be flowing into your business at a decent clip now, but that can change overnight. With smart cash-flow management, it'll be easier to withstand unexpected slowdowns.

You already know the risks of borrowing more than you can pay back on time. You'll have less need to borrow if you know how to shrink the time between when you deliver your product or service and when you get paid for it. Book a half-hour with your accountant to make sure you're doing everything you can to improve your cash flow. It'll be money well spent.   

See related: Rebuilding credit to run your new business, Understanding small-business credit reporting

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Updated: 02-22-2019